National Geographic : 1959 Dec
delicate French fashion doll brought to the United States in 1879 by Sally Sturgis Fitch of the family which helped to found New York's famed Abercrombie & Fitch sporting goods store. Mannequins like these, in the days before fashion magazines, were sent all over Europe and to the United States by Paris dressmakers (page 830). Costumes designed for these models were meant to be copied in every detail, including coiffures. An advertisement from a New Eng land newspaper in 1733 gives an idea of how these fashion dolls were regarded. It read: "To be seen at Mrs. Hannah Teatts Mantua maker at the head of Summer-street, Boston, a Baby drest after the Newest Fashion of Mantues and Night Gowns and every thing belonging to a Dress, lately Arrived in Capt. White, from London, any Ladies that desire to see it, may either come or send & she will be ready to wait on 'em, if they come to the House it is Five Shillings, and if she waits on them it is Seven Shillings." So important were these dolls that they were permitted to move about duty free and even cross lines during time of war. In the Civil War contraband and messages went past Northern road blocks, hidden in dolls cradled in the arms of little girls. Some cotton growing even today in Mississippi traces its lineage to seed smuggled in then as dolls' stuffing. Marvels That Walk, Talk, and Draw The majority of dolls throughout most of the past have been figures of women. Infant dolls as playthings were practically unknown before the 1850's. Eyes that could open and close were in use in 1826, and the first speak ing doll was patented in 1824. Today we have dolls that can walk, talk, wet, sing nursery rhymes, and even kiss when squeezed. But they have their equals in mechanical dolls of bygone days. I recently acquired an 18th-century French musical doll which turns her head, flutters her eyelids, heaves her bosom, and strums on a lyre as a hidden music box plucks out a tune. Dolls such as this were the rage in the court of Louis XVI, and craftsmen who made them sometimes reaped fortunes. Some of the miniature robots they produced could draw pictures and even write whole sentences. One of my dolls is really a department store mannequin. I was walking down New York's Fifth Avenue one day when I saw her in a shop window. She represented a little girl of about eight, her arms thrust upward and her mouth 829 Face Impassive, a Thai Figurine Speaks With Graceful Limbs Stylized gestures convey emotion in between-the scenes ballet of Thailand's epic Ramakien. Vary ing Asian versions of India's Ramayana relate the battles of folk-hero Rama to free his abducted wife, aided by monkey warriors (pages 808-9). Pointed epaulets and trouserlike panung disclose this doll's masculine role. The flame-shaped head dress suggests spires of Buddhist shrines; the costume echoes temple mosaics.